Can't Get to the Bat Cave, Robin, as U.S. Seals Lairs Amid Virus Outbreak
Hikers may be locked out of hundreds of caves and 30,000 abandoned mines in the U.S. West and Midwest in a government plan to protect bat from man.
The cave closings may come “as early as this week,” according to U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Janelle Smith, and are the latest efforts to combat a disease called White Nose Syndrome that decimated bat communities in 13 states and two Canadian provinces. The disease, perhaps caused by a fungus, may spread to more states as hikers and tourists inadvertently carry spores on their clothing, Smith said.
The loss of swaths of the U.S. bat population may threaten corn and soybean crops and other parts of the U.S. agriculture and timber industries, said Mollie Matteson, a conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity in Tucson, Arizona, in an interview. Bats help control insect pests, eating as much as two-thirds of their body weight per night, said Holly K. Ober, assistant professor at the University of Florida in Quincy, Florida, in a 2008 Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation document.